Outback Bowl Today at 12 Noon: Arkansas Razorbacks take on Penn State Nittany Lions

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Arkansas Razorbacks will head to Florida for a bowl game for the first time since 2007 when the Hogs take on Penn State in the Outback Bowl at 11 a.m. CT on Jan. 1, 2022.

Under second-year head coach Sam Pittman, the Razorbacks won eight games during the regular season – the most regular season wins for the program since 2011. The Hogs’ four non-conference wins marked the first time to go undefeated outside of league play since 2016 while the team’s 4-4 mark in Southeastern Conference action were the most league wins since 2015. Arkansas’ third place finish in the SEC West is also the best for the Razorbacks since 2015. The Hogs scored wins over four teams headed to bowl games in the postseason and are one of a record 13 SEC schools in the postseason.

When the Razorbacks take the field inside Raymond James Stadium – home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers – in Tampa, Fla. it will mark the first time since the Belk Bowl on Dec. 29, 2016 Arkansas has played in a bowl game. The Hogs will be playing in their first New Year’s Day game since the 2008 Cotton Bowl. Pittman led Arkansas to a bowl berth last year during the COVID-19 pandemic before the team’s Texas Bowl matchup with TCU was canceled due to COVID issues within the Horned Frogs program.

The Razorbacks and Penn State will meet for the first time ever on the gridiron. The Nittany Lions finished 7-5, including a 4-5 mark in Big Ten play. Despite having never played against Penn State, Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin is familiar with the SEC having coached at Vanderbilt 2011-13. Arkansas beat Franklin’s Commodores 31-28 in Nashville in the lone meeting between the Razorbacks and Franklin. Offensively, Penn State is led by WR Jahan Dotson who caught 91 passes for 1,182 and 12 TDs. QB Sean Clifford passed for 2,912 yards and 20 touchdowns despite battling injuries throughout the season. On the defensive side of the ball, LB Ellis Brooks recorded 100 tackles to pace the squad and DE Arnold Ebiketie posted a team-best 9.5 sacks.

Arkansas is 0-4 against the Big Ten all time in bowl games dating back to the 1999 Citrus Bowl – one of seven previous Florida bowls to host the Hogs.

Raymond James Stadium Pirate Ship By Bernard Gagnon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https commons.wikimedia.org

No. 22 Arkansas (8-4, 4-4 SEC) will travel to play in the Outback Bowl for the first time in program history and meet Penn State (7-5, 4-5 B1G) on the gridiron for the first time on January 1, 2022. Kickoff is slated for 11 a.m. CT on ESPN2 with Dave Fleming (play-by-play), Rod Gilmore (analyst) and Stormy Buonantony (reporter) on the call.

10 Things to Know – Penn State

1. – Arkansas last played on Black Friday and defeated Missouri 34-17 to win four of its last five regular season games. The Razorbacks claimed the Battle Line Rivalry Trophy for the first time since 2015’s 28-3 victory in Fayetteville. Quarterback KJ Jefferson completed 15-of-19 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown, while also leading the rushing attack with 58 yards. In what would be his final game inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, wide receiver Treylon Burks hauled in seven receptions for 129 yards and a score. The defense held the Tigers to only 70 passing yards, Missouri’s fewest since 2014 against Florida.

2. – Burks has opted out of the Outback Bowl, with most media outlets projecting him as a first round pick in the NFL Draft. He finished the 2021 season being named All-SEC first team by both the coaches and AP by tallying 66 catches for 1,104 yards (16.7 ypc) and 11 touchdowns. The Warren, Ark. product set a program record totaling six 100+ yard receiving games in a season and became just the fourth receiver in school history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in a year.

3. – The Arkansas rushing attack is one of the best in the country this season, averaging 217.3 yards per game on the ground to rank second in the SEC and 12th nationally. Four ball carriers have each totaled over 400 rushing yards this year in running back Trelon Smith (592), quarterback KJ Jefferson (554) and running backs Dominique Johnson (499) and Raheim Sanders (498). Arkansas and Ole Miss are the only two teams in FBS that feature four 450-yard rushers this year. The last time the Hogs had four 400-yard rushers was 1975, Frank Broyles’ second to last season as head coach. Running backs Ike Forte (983), Jerry Eckwood (792) and Rolland Fuchs (618) and quarterback Scott Bull (533) led the way for a team that rushed for 320.3 yards per game, the single-season school record.

4. – Quarterback KJ Jefferson has thrown for 2,578 yards and ranks seventh in the SEC with 21 passing touchdowns this year. The redshirt sophomore is third in the SEC in average yards per completion (14.0) and yards per pass attempt (9.4). Jefferson has thrown a touchdown pass in seven straight games, totaling 15 over that span with just one interception. Jefferson is one of only four signal callers in the country to throw 20 or more touchdown passes with three or fewer interceptions. The Sardis, Miss. product has posted three 300+ yard passing games with at least three touchdown passes, the most by a Razorback quarterback since Brandon Allen in 2015 (3 games).

5. – Linebacker Bumper Pool was named All-SEC second team by both the coaches and AP and leads the team recording 120 stops. The senior ranks second in the SEC and 10th nationally averaging 10.0 tackles per game. Over the last three seasons (2019-21) his 315 tackles are second-most in FBS during that span, trailing only Troy’s Carlton Martial (361). The Lucas, Texas product has recorded 344 career tackles, which ranks ninth in program history.

6. – The Hogs’ top three tackles are all senior linebackers in Pool, Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry. Morgan is right behind Pool with 96 tackles on the year and Henry is third on the team making 94 stops. Henry saved his best season on The Hill for last, totaling more tackles this year then his four prior seasons combined. The trio’s 310 combined tackles account for 34.4% of Arkansas’ total tackles.

7. – Cornerback Montaric Brown produced one of the best seasons by a Razorback cornerback of late and earned All-SEC first team honors from the coaches. Brown tied for the SEC lead making five interceptions, which tied for second-most nationally. His five picks are tied for ninth in a single season in school history and make him the first Razorback to tally five or more interceptions in a season since Tramain Thomas in 2011. Brown became the first Arkansas cornerback since Ahmad Carroll in 2003 to earn first-team recognition from the league’s coaches.

8. – Kicker Cam Little drilled 19-of-23 field goals this season, tied for the FBS freshman lead in makes, and earned SEC All-Freshman honors. The 19 made field goals are tied for fourth-most in a single season by a Razorback kicker and is five makes sky of tying Kendall Trainor’s record of 24 in 1998.

9. – Arkansas is headed to Florida for a bowl game for the first time since 2007, where the Hogs will be playing in their first New Year’s Day game since the 2008 Cotton Bowl. The Hogs will play in the Outback Bowl for the first time, while appearing in a bowl game for the 43rd time, tied for the 17th-most appearances in FBS history. Arkansas owns an all-time record of 15-24-3 in bowls.

10. – The Razorbacks are 2-8 all-time against Big Ten schools – and 0-4 in bowl games – and will meet Penn State for the first time. Arkansas routed Northwestern 38-7 for its last win against a Big Ten in 1981, the only meeting between the Razorbacks and Wildcats.

COURTESY ARKANSAS COMMUNICATIONS

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